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How important are book covers?

edited January 2012 in - WM and WN
In this month's (March2012) Writing Mag page 7, there's an article on the importance of a good cover to a book. Any experiences on this? My latest book Deeping Fen, which was reviewed in the WN - Members Club Feb 2012 has a cover based on a painting done by my wife, Erica, who is a wildlife artist. I have my own publishing imprint and design my own covers. This is the first time I have used her work for a cover. Readers have enjoyed the book and it is selling well but many more than usual have commented favourably on the cover. Does a book cover persuade you to buy the book?


  • LizLiz
    edited January 2012
    Oh, yes. I hate shiny covers and shy away from them - to me they look 'cheap' and make me think inside there will be an old-fashioned, not very well written story.

    I also don't like embossed ones, they make me think of sensationalism. I get them only if I am sure of the author.

    I like matt, silky covers which actually have the power to make my mouth water. Especially if they are tactile.

    They also have to be beautiful/excellently designed/with interesting font used/clever.

    I won't buy self-published books normally, mainly because of the cover.

    i do think self published books need to try harder. Even get a professional in.

    If their insides are worth it of course - there is one in our local Waterstone's which is actually illiterate - the book. The cover is ok. I just don't understand why they are selling it - I worry people who buy it will be put of buying 'properly produced books, thinking the quality of publishing has dropped.
  • I think the cover design is vitally important, probably more important than the blurb, especially if you are publishing on line, when the decision to purchase is pretty much made on title and cover design. I don't mind shiny covers and I lurvvve embossed ones, but that's just me.

    [quote=Liz!]i do think self published books need to try harder. Even get a professional in.
    [/quote] I do agree with this.
  • They've become even more important with e-books.
  • I couldn't agree more with Liz about embossed covers. The covers are not the only problem with a lot of Self Published fiction. The editing is often minimal and gives the SP fraternity a bad name. Paperbackwriter is dead right about e-books. The cover is then the main reason to buy. As a writer I am interested in the total presentation of my work, including the covers. I am probably in a minority in my attitude, but that's just me.
  • I once gave a talk to a library full of teenage boys about book covers: they really can make or break a sale. If you are browsing in a bookshop, your eye has to be entertained first, before you will reach for the book to check it out. A case in point was, at the time, the run of Douglas Adams books which, if placed together, made a picture; also Janet Evanovich's original quirky covers featuring the hamster looking over a gunsight, and a very modern girl detective-type.
    A good book cover also makes a brilliant advertising poster. The cover has to advertise the genre, the style, the intended audience, as well as the subject of the book. In France there is a horrible fashion for literary works to have plain white covers with just words on, which may make your bookshelf look stylish and tidy but really doesn't inspire the random buyer to pick one from another.
    It's not just a cover: it's a sales pitch to someone who likes reading, but hasn't decided what to buy yet, and you want them to choose your book above all others - so you really need to get it right.
    It's also, once you've hooked your reader, a part of the club they've joined: if you run a series, it's important that they can recognise at first glance that the next book is like the one they so enjoyed last time. It becomes a signature.
    So, in answer to your question - vital!
  • I agree with Bertie B as to what a book cover does.

    I think the received wisdom regarding order of importance is: 1-title, 2-cover, 3-blurb, 4-page one, 5-the rest of the text. 1-4 sell book 1; 5 sells book 2. Mind you, before all these as an effective marketing tool comes word of mouth and the title and cover being shown on TV.
  • [quote=bertiebear]It's not just a cover: it's a sales pitch[/quote]

    That's it, in a nutshell.
  • Absolutely.
  • There are loads of books in my 'to read' list on Goodreads that had it not been for the cover I probably wouldn't have given it a second look.

    There are even listopias on Goodreads full of books chosen for their covers.

    They say you should never judge a book by it's cover but we all do it.
  • I agree about the importance of covers, having learned that lesson the hard way with one of my early books.
  • I wrote a blog post about it, last October

  • With regard to the texture of books, what do you think of those slightly rubberised covers that seem to have crept in over the last couple of years? I think the one I bought most recently was the paperback edition of Adam Foulds's "The Quickening Maze"

    I quite like them - they've got a nice feel to them when you pick them up - although there's something slightly fetishistic about them that I'm not too sure about.
  • If they involve the use of rubber or anything else that contributes to more rainforest disappearing I'm against them.
  • I'm not sure what they're made of, Liz, but I agree with danfango, they have a nice 'feel'.
  • First impressions and all that; I've got to fancy it before I pick it up. I think a great cover is becoming ever more vital in a very crowded marketplace.

    I'm planning to e-publish if my agent doesn't sell the ms in the next few months. I've approached my dream cover illustrator and she's quoted me an eye-watering fee but I admire her work so much I've sent her the book so she can mull some ideas. Your writing is your legacy, why not make the whole package the best it can be? - (answers self - because you can't even afford to put the heating on).
  • Oh dear. All your comments are valid. And there's me having 'rushed' to put a cover together for my black humour Kindle-to-be novel Going Bananas just using a pic of a bunch of bananas and the title and my name in white lettering below it
    Perhaps I should rethink. As the protagonists end up wearing rubber banana outfits at a General's Ball out in the Philippines (don't ask ...) then a cartoon of them dressed up would be more intriguing perhaps. I'll see if I can put the pic up and get your comments first.
  • If I were ever to write a novel (highly improbable though that is) I would invest in a good cover. It really is important. The first anthology I had a story published in by Pill Hill Press makes me cringe so much I don't display it on my bookshelf - and I haven't shown it to anyone either. :(
  • Oh dear Claudia. Does this mean you kept it under wraps then?
  • Malcolm, I guess as a published author your market is partly established and you might not need to work so hard to get noticed - still it all helps.
  • [quote=M. Welshman]Oh dear Claudia. Does this mean you kept it under wraps then?[/quote]

    The anthology wasn't mine - I just had one story in it - so I had nothing to do with the production of the book or any say in the book cover.
    The cover of a (UK produced) anthology that I have a story in is great and I'm happy to display it and show it to people. Whereas the one I was referring to in my previous post just embarrasses me.
  • While I agree that having a bad cover will harm sales, I'm not so sure that having a good cover is a sure sign that your book will sell. I've had people wax lyrical about my covers but still not buy the books. It's a package deal. Good cover + interesting blurb + good writing + factor x. Now if I can just work out what factor x is, I'll be in clover! :(
  • This debate is very interesting. I'm learning a huge amount about it all at the moment. I did have the cover of my book professionally designed and yet it doesn't satisfy everybody. I have had book buyers who love it and want to order without me having to go into sales mode, I've had ones say that the cover is the only thing about the book they don't like and I've had one say it makes the book look self published - which is ironic as it is the only bit of the book I paid a professional for. I have taken dozens of books off the bookshelf to compare it against and can't see what the comment relates to. It is hard to get it completely right.
  • I haven't much else to add to this discussion, as I agree with all that's been said.

    Just that the cover for our "One Word Challenge Anthology" needs to be as professional as possible, with agreement all round on the format !
  • Interesting comments. At least they prove the approval of a cover design is very subjective; you definitely can't please all of the people all of the time. I had a letter yesterday from someone who has just purchased my latest novel, 'Deeping Fen.' He said how much he liked the story but the cover had nothing to do with the storyline. The cover is of a Heron in the fen setting of a reed bed and many of the descriptive passages in the book are based on this type of terrain. Like I said - you can't please all of the people etc. etc.
  • And have you noticed with published books how designs go in phases, and when one publisher changes, the others change to that cover style soon after...
  • I think covers are important, personally the cover catches my eye when I am in a bookstore. Then I will read the blurb and check the printing of the text as well. But the cover would make me pick up a book by an author I do not know yet. I find that recently, publishers have chosen new covers for some books which I am not too keen on. I quite like 'Erica James' and I so much prefer the old covers. :-)
  • edited February 2012
    Once, when I received a copy of Slubberdegullion, I found someone else's story inside my cover! Which only goes to prove ...
  • I'm drawn by the cover when I browse books. Anything with a foresty green background usually does the trick. I've got my cover sorted for my first novel...just need to get it finished!
  • Carol wrote :- And have you noticed with published books how designs go in phases,

    Not just the covers it's the contents as well The Chick Lit phenomenon is a good, recent, example. I understand that phase is now fading. As I don't write Chick Lit,I am relieved! What do we think is going to be the next big craze?
  • [quote=Jay Mandal]Once, when I received a copy of Slubberdegullion, I found someone else's story inside my cover! [/quote]

    You serious?! What did you do?
  • [quote=norcot] What do we think is going to be the next big craze?[/quote]
    Just depends who's the first to come up with something different enough to make a publisher willing to take the risk in the current climate.
  • I sent it back to Amazon/Tesco (sorry), and they sent me one with MY story inside! My publisher said these things sometimes happen.
  • [quote=Jay Mandal]Slubberdegullion[/quote]

    What a FABULOUS title!
  • edited February 2012
    That's what I thought. There certainly wasn't another book with that title. Only problem was Word didn't recognize it. (I only found it when I was looking through Roget's Thesaurus for words to use during a slanging match.) :)
  • But I think some people have come across it in a song. Can't remember who sang it. Google will know - the group's well-known.
  • Looks like it's Genesis.
  • It's in Johnson's Dictionary - ' ( I suppose a cant word without derivation) A paltry, dirty, sorry wretch. ' He sounds familiar!
  • Chambers mentions Lower German.
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